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Mozilla Seabird concept phone

This concept piece from Mozilla Labs provides some interesting ideas of how mobile devices could change in the coming years. Highlights include a separate gestural interface and a projected screen/keyboard dock.

Bonus: there’s also a 3D version of the video clip, using Youtube’s 3D technology (side-by-side, red-blue, and so on.)

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Bitnorth 2010: The Human 2.0 Weekend

In late August, CAMMAC (a music camp north of Montreal) hosted the third annual Bitnorth conference. This year the theme was Human 2.0. Attendees presented a 5 minute “short bit” on a topic of their choice, which inspired many lively debates. Slides and recordings will be online soon but in the meantime, here are some of the interesting Human 2.0 ideas and questions that emerged over the course of the weekend: Read more »

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Visualizing social data

The folks at Contagious Magazine have an interesting piece on visualizing check-in data. Weeplaces.com lets you visualize your check-in data across several services, including Foursquare and Facebook Places. I generated mine fairly easily.

FourSquare Visualization by WeePlaces.com from Eric Wu on Vimeo.

This reminds me of nothing as much as Plazes, an early check-in competitor (that relied on MAC addresses to “claim” locations — this was pre-iPhone, of course.) Plazes caught on a bit, and was eventually bought by Nokia, but lacked the critical mass needed for applications like Foursquare, Groupon, and Gowalla.

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Using an iPad as a paintbrush of light

Design firm BERG have found an innovative new use for an iPad – as a paintbrush. They swipe the iPad through the air, while it displays the different components of a 3D object or text, and repeat this multiple times to produce a stop frame animation. Check out the video:

Read more at Fast Co Design.

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The Mobile Radicals Research Group, from Lancaster, UK, today presented their paper “Harnessing creativity to broaden the appeal of location-based games” at the HCI2010 conference.

Kate Lund from the group highlighted the limitations of the few location-based games that have reached the public attention. For example Foursquare and Gowalla have very simple actions and very limited gameplay. The group had took inspiration from geo-caching, noting that is is inclusive and easy to do, but has limited appeal.

They re-invented geo-caching as a game for families and children, creating a new mobile game called “Free All Monsters”. Children can use their creativity to draw monsters, these monsters then get transplanted into the real world, where they and their friends can then use a “Magical Monstervision Machine” (a Nokia N95 running special software) to detect and find monsters in the real world. The display overlays the sensor information and monster pictures onto the real world, much like Layar and other augmented reality applications:

The game reinvents geocaching in a creative, understandable way. For example, the strength of the GPS fix is represented as a “Captoplasm” gauge – you can’t capture monsters if you haven’t got enough. The game reinforces creativity throughout. Children’s monster creations are added to a “Liber Monstorum” (book of monsters), which is used to populate the game world – personalizing the game to the players.

Players also have a “Monster Spotter’s Guide” (which helps encourage teamwork) and have a set of thought-provoking questions for players to answer for each discovery, like “What does this monster dream?” or “Where would he go on holiday?”

The game is also designed to keep players focussed on the real world (which is why the camera augmentation approach is chosen) and favours teamwork and fun over speed and competitiveness.

The game has been used successfully on a small scale at a number of outdoor open days, and will soon be released for use anywhere in the world as an iPhone application (early video here).

There’s more about the group and their research at mobileradicals.com

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Ben Schneiderman opens HCI2010 in DundeeToday at the opening keynote of the British Computer Society’s HCI 2010 conference, UX pioneer Ben Shneiderman gave an uplifting address about the need to expand the use of technology and social media for civic good.

He gave many examples of existing systems that harness the Internet to help with human problems – such as 911.gov, a conceptual site which would allow US residents to report crimes, but more importantly to request and give assistance to each other. For example, allowing a disabled resident being able to find a volunteer to help them get out of the building in an evacuation. Real-world examples included amberalert.gov and nationofneighbors.net as well as the use of Twitter to track the spread of Californian wildfires. Another example was patientslikeme.com which takes a more open view to the sharing of personal medical data than most current medical institutions, but has shown measurable benefits for the participants.

Ben highlighted the nascent nature of such thinking in the public consciousness, and speculated that greater steps need to be taken to help the public see both what is possible but also to give them the tools to make better use of data for good. To achieve this, he said, we will need deep science research to take place which can then be applied to everyday systems and functions.

As an example, Ben introduced SocialAction, a network analysis tool for researchers which can uncover hidden information in human networks. In the following video you can see the tool being used to uncover the strength of relationships between US Senators who voted the same up to 2007. Read more »

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Computers make better decisions than humans because they aren’t weighed down by biases, ego, and the need to rationalize decisions after the fact. An economically rational player would make more money on Deal Or No Deal than a stupid human. We can’t help it: it’s the way we evolved. Everything from shopping, to teamwork, to the way we elect our leaders is tainted with the stupidity of how we make decisions.

Just as external storage can become a form of prosthetic memory, so computers can become prosthetic decision-makers. If we were to make them understand the dilemmas before us, computer assistants could advise us on the economically rational thing to do.

Would we be able to deal with being told we’re wrong so much of the time?

Read more »

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Is voice control a reality?

The new Android software from Google, Voice Actions lets you send a text, write an email, bring up information or call a business whose number you don’t have to hand using just your voice. The demonstration is impressive (though from real world tests it does not seem to be as speedy as the demo suggests).
If it works, this could be a great feature for hands-free drivers who want to access information on the move.. but will we use it in public? So far, voice technologies have not gained mainstream adoption – some people think it is because we feel silly talking to our electronics. Perhaps, as voice recognition technology improves, the biggest barrier is no longer technological but psychological…

Find out more at TechCrunch

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Is photography a human right?

Today we photograph more than ever before – and thanks to the negligible cost, we film situations that would never have been captured before. But police and other authority figures do not want to be recorded, and all over the world a battle is playing out between officials pushing current laws to extremes to prevent such recordings, and citizens who fight back with equal vigour to protect their freedom to photograph.

Should photography be criminalized and recording devices banished from any situation where that recording might be used for ill? Or should we assert our right to capture anything we experience as a fundamental right?

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In The Shockwave Rider, his 1970s vision of a future that’s arriving faster than we can deal with it, John Brunner talks about Delphi Pools. These public, crowdsourced lotteries let citizens bet on predictions. The government uses this data to decide what’s most important to the population.

Break out your tinfoil hats: now Google and the CIA may be up to the same thing, having invested in a “temporal analytics” startup called Recorded Future last year.

According to Wired:

The CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

Sentiment analysis is nothing new; what’s different here seems to be the visualization and extrapolation of past trends into the future.

Like Brunner’s Delphi, this helps guess what might happen, but rather than soliciting our input directly the way prediction markets do, this uses the trails we leave online — links, comments, retweets, and so on. The predictions can include competitive intelligence, brand monitoring, and personal investigation.

Incidentally, in Brunner’s novel, the government uses the Delphi pools to placate an otherwise implacable citizenry, and often alters the results before publishing them to sway public opinion.

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